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Digits grasp digits – Development and evaluation of a digital app for self-regulated training of finger-based numerical strategies

Project of the former Junior Research Group  Neuro-cognitive Plasticity
Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus „Cognitive Interfaces”
Project description

Almost all children use their fingers for counting and initial calculation. Fingers may be considered an embodied cognitive interface for numbers. In this project, we will develop and evaluate a game-like app for finger-based training on touch-sensitive tablets for kindergartners.

As a cognitive interface, the app will assist children through the initial stages of their numerical development such as i) understanding counting principles (e.g., by realizing that each number word spoken corresponds to one raised finger), ii) becoming aware of the quantitative meaning conveyed by a number (e.g., reflected by the number of fingers raised) and iii) performing initial calculations by understanding that numbers, just like fingers, can be separated or grouped into smaller or larger sets. Although evidence points to a valuable role of fingers in the acquisition of counting, cardinal magnitude understanding and initial calculation, there is currently no study evaluating the influence of explicit finger-based training on numerical development empirically.

Therefore, we will pursue this question based on a recent theoretical model suggesting how finger-based numerical strategies may corroborate numerical development in a two-stage procedure: In phase 1, we will develop and implement the finger-based numerical training app for tablets considering theoretical and empirical evidence. As motivation plays a critical role in learning processes, we plan to make the app as appealing as possible for children by considering state-of-the-art recommendations on game elements such as narrative, visual aesthetics and incentives to promote learning effectively. In phase 2, the efficiency of the app will be evaluated in an intervention study with kindergartners aged 4 to 6. It is expected that the trained use of finger-based numerical strategies should corroborate the acquisition of counting, cardinal, and calculation abilities significantly when children are trained at their individual level of numerical skills. After positive evaluation, the app will be made available for free download.


Prof. Dr. Caterina Gawrilow, School Psychology, Tübingen University

Prof. Dr. Dorothee Kimmich, German Seminar, Tübingen University

Prof. Dr. Silke Ladel, Mathematics Education, Saarland University